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Immunity. 1999 Jul;11(1):57-65.

Human gamma delta T cells recognize alkylamines derived from microbes, edible plants, and tea: implications for innate immunity.

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Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Approximately 4% of peripheral blood T cells in humans express a T cell receptor with markedly restricted germline gene segment usage (V gamma 2 V delta 2). Remarkably, these T cells expand 2- to 10-fold (8%-60% of all circulating T cells) during many microbial infections. We show here that these T cells recognize a family of naturally occurring primary alkylamines in a TCR-dependent manner. These antigenic alkylamines are secreted to millimolar concentrations in bacterial supernatants and are found in certain edible plants. Given the large numbers of memory V gamma 2 V delta 2 T cells in adult humans, recognition of alkylamine antigens offers the immune system a response of the magnitude of major superantigens for alpha beta T cells and may bridge the gap between innate and adaptive immunity.

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